Committee feels backlash from water and speed

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   It wasn't rain that inundated the Carter County Highway Department Tuesday, but backlash from constant downpours, a question of city/county jurisdiction, and reigning in speeding motorists.
   Michael May, 109 Summer Court, presented Highway Committee Chairman Jerry Pearman with one of three petitions requesting the speed limit be lowered on some of the county's roadways. In particular, May asked that the limit be lowered from 35 along River Road, Edgewater Road, and Jenkins Hollow Road.
   "It needs to be lowered because they use it like a racetrack through there -- 50 and 60 mph. There are a lot of those curves that are 35 mph [that] you cannot make along that River Road or Jenkins Hollow either one. We're trying to get the speed limit lowered down there for the safety of the kids and the people that drive through there," he said.
   According to one resident, "On Edgewater Road, you can't even get two cars passed unless somebody stops. If you meet them in certain places, somebody has to back up into somebody's driveway or something."
   Another resident asked whether a Dead End sign could be put up on Edgewater. "People come through there [thinking they're] going to Hampton."
   One man told the committee, "My wife got hit head-on up there. There's no place to go. If you meet somebody doing 60, even if you stop, they're still going to hit you, because everything on the left is river."
   Another resident said she believed that a guardrail was supposed to have been placed along the river side of the roadway, but that it had not been done.
   Pearman said, "Let me tell you about a guardrail. A guardrail costs a lot of money. If we put one everywhere in this county, we ain't got enough money to buy the guardrail. And I'm sorry about that. But we can do something about the speed limit."
   Robert Calhoun, 139 Little Stoney Creek Road, also presented a petition to the committee. "I have the same problem Mr. May does," he said, in asking that the 35 mph limit be lowered. "The only problem I got is teen-agers like to go 80 mph."
   Pearman said he also had a petition from residents on Ed Carpenter Road in Central Community, asking that the speed limit be lowered there.
   Bobby Hardin, 1363 Hwy. 91, told the group that he and his son have property on Willow Spring Road. "There have been five vehicles off in there in the last six years. They tore everything up. I've got grandbabies over there. The way the road comes over from Possum Hollow and comes off, it throws people off in the hollow. I've got pictures of all of them.
   "They flipped down on my boy's house there and blood [went] all over everything. They've tore the garden up three times. We want guardrails up," he said.
   Highway Committee member Jack Buckles said that as a member of Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department he had responded to several calls at that location. "There's a hump in that curve. They come off of that flying and hit that hump and can't take the curve and slide off the road," he said.
   Charles Odom of C&K Wrecker in Elizabethton also was at Tuesday's meeting. Rushing water, not speed, has been plaguing his home on Old Lewis Road off Milligan Highway for more than a year. "The last rain we had, I had 5 inches of rain in my garage and more than a foot in my basement," he said.
   Odom phoned Pearman on the day of the last rain event and Pearman jumped in his truck and went to investigate. "Water was coming across the road from those storage buildings," and going into Odom's garage and basement, Pearman said. "It's got a big ditch washed out."
   But Odom's problem is complicated by a jurisdictional issue, Pearman said. The question is whether Old Lewis Road is the responsibility of the City of Elizabethton, which annexed that area.
   "I've got a thing here from Mr. George Dugger on annexation," Pearman said. "It names some roads but they didn't name the Old Lewis Road. I can't figure out why they jump roads."
   "They had a water problem," Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins said.
   Odom said he spoke with the city about the water and "they told me it wasn't up to them; it was up to the county." Odom said there's a 12-inch drain going through his property but "it's just so much water it won't handle it."
   Perkins said he had been to the city and also had talked with County Attorney George Dugger, and "I'm not going to fix it until a judge or somebody makes me go down there and do something. We didn't create the problem. It's not a county problem."
   County Executive Dale Fair said there were two issues: "We've got a jurisdiction [problem]. Who's responsible, but then, responsible for what? [and] There's a problem, how do you fix it?"
   Fair said he had spoken with City Manager Charles Stahl about the problem. "If there's a solution, they're willing to work with us, but they don't want to go out there and say it's their road. They even said that if there was some curbing they could do, they would be willing to do curbing. But I think that would divert the problem. It will divert it to the Milligan Highway and somebody hydroplane and wreck, so that doesn't solve the problem," Fair said.
   County Planning Administrator Chris Schuettler suggested that Pearman, as chairman of the committee, draft a letter to the city "and explain the situation in-depth, explain a way to correct the situation, and explain to them that it is their problem because it is their annexation."
   Fair said that City Attorney Roger Day and County Attorney Dugger had discussed the matter, but the attorneys disagree. "One attorney says it's a county road and one says they didn't exempt it out," he said. "You cannot jump boundaries when you annex. They have to be contiguous. They have to be touching."
   Pearman told Odom, "We'll go down there and look at it with the road superintendent and then I'll go to Mr. Fair tomorrow and we'll draft a letter to the City of Elizabethton to tell them what we think and what we read here in this annexation law: that it's not a county problem, it's a city problem. And then we'll go from there."
   Nancy Wright, 150 Stout Hollow Road, also approached the committee about water problems along Stout Hollow. "The water isn't staying in the ditches, it's crossing the road, coming down my front yard, through my carport, through my driveway, and then it crosses back over. It just criss-crosses. The county came up there and put rocks in the ditches and that made it worse."
   Wright said the problem had been ongoing since she and her family moved there in 1991. "I can't even get my car in the driveway right now. I had to park across the road."
   County Commissioner John Lewis told the group, "I went up there yesterday and looked at it myself. ... In my opinion, the ditch isn't deep enough, and some people ain't got no tile in their driveways."
   Highway Committee members adjourned to investigate the sites in question and will follow up on the problems at a later meeting.